Srinagar, Feb 1: Timely snowfall and promotion by the tourism department have not helped the Kashmir to improve its tourism flow this winter as well, as hotels at all destinations baring Gulmarg currently report no occupancy.
Majority of the hotels in Srinagar and other destinations of the valley run dry since months and many have now closed their operations till spring season.
Asif Burza, a prominent hotelier and president of Pahalgam Hoteliers Association, said the government failed to build up the momentum after Christmas and New Year boom.
“Winter tourism is currently good but only for Gulmarg. In Srinagar and Pahalgam, the occupancy is nearly to 10 per cent, which means the hoteliers are living hand- to-mouth,” he said.
Burza said the government has focused on selling Gulmarg as destination while ignoring rest of the Kashmir’s tourism.
“Not everyone visits here for skiing and snow. Some are interested in cuisines and culture, whom government fails to lure. There has to be a sort of push from the government by promoting all the destinations of the valley,” he said.
Travel agents believe that the cost of living has gone up in Kashmir due to the Goods and Service Tax (GST) implementation, which they claim discourages the tourists from visiting to the valley.
“The cost of living in Kashmir is not as expensive as in other Himalayan tourist regions. Before GST the industry was protected but now the taxation is of the order of 28 per cent,” said Umar Ahmad a travel agent.
On the other hand,the shikarawalas at Dal Lake claims that this winter like that of previous years and has not fetched them enough money to rely entirely on this profession.
“Hopes were high for the arrival of good number of tourists after snowfall. But the situation is similar to that of previous season when houseboats and shikaras received no customers for a long time,” said Ghulam Muhammad Dar, a shikarawala
He said that many belonging to the hospitality sector have temporarily switched to other jobs after getting no economy out of this trade.
“Some sell vegetables, while a few prefer to work as salesmen till spring season,” Bhat adedd.
Tourism, which is the second biggest employment generating industry, with worth 16000 crore contributing 8% to the state’s gross domestic product.
The Industry has been in doldrums since 2014, when devastating floods hit the valley add to it the unfavourable situation prevailing in the valley post 2016.
As per the government figures over 8.5 lakh domestic and 50,000 foreign tourists have visited Kashmir last year.